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Color is Overrated – People Have Forgotten Their Values! Or Have They?

Friday, July 6th, 2012

You may be used to the new “3-D” look of the latest Disney films, but what happened to the old line art that you can see in older Pixar movies, such as ‘Mulan’ and ‘Cinderella’? Well, Pixar is bringing back that look with their new animated short, ‘Paperman’, which is scheduled to be run before their new feature film, ‘Wreck-it Ralph’, in November. It’s not unusual for a short to be attached to another film; Disney and Pixar have been doing the same thing with movies such as ‘Brave’ and ‘Monsters, Inc.’.

The line art look that is going to be used in ‘Paperman’ will combine both the “old” and “new” Disney visual art, using shading to make some things look like forms, but still using traditional hand-drawn animation that will be transferred to their art software. They will also use only values of black and white, so color will not be used at all in this short! This makes value a very important feature, and the animators have to pay close attention to how dark they make the shadows. If one area is too light, it might clash with where the light source is coming from, making it look unrealistic. The irony in the color scheme is that the title of the short is ‘Paperman’ – usually we associate paper with being black and white. Since Disney and Pixar are going back to the basics; maybe you can draw some inspiration from them and get some ideas for artwork! Try using only shades of black and white to draw something; make sure you add in some shadows and shades of grey, not just black and white.

A Creative Look at Pixar’s New Animated Feature, ‘Brave’

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

 

As you know, we at Madcap Logic are big fans of animation. That’s why when Pixar’s new big movie, ‘Brave’, came out this past Friday, we were all very excited.

‘Brave’ follows the story of a Scottish princess named Merida and her quest to become free of the responsibilities of being a soon-to-be queen. She had always had a fascination with archery, but her mother became more and more insistent on her education on how to be a proper princess. Soon, it is announced that Merida would have an arranged marriage, at which point Merida becomes furious and takes it into her own hands to change her destiny. However, things don’t go as planned, and she must reverse what she has done before it is too late. Throughout the film, the relationship between Merida, her mother, Queen Elinor, and her father is explored. In addition to the fact that this is Pixar’s first movie with a female lead, it is also the first in which both parents are present in the entirety of the plot.

What is really amazing in this new film is the animation: it took nearly three years and two programs to just make Merida’s hair, which is composed of 1,500 unique strands of hair, each controlled differently. Animators had to study curly hair and the way it moved to make the most lifelike version of the firey mane that Merida sports. The scenery and backgrounds were produced using 350 custom brushes in Photoshop, which were then layered to add depth and realism to the forests in ‘Brave’. Even the weapons used in the movie were studied – employees took archery lessons, and Mark Andrews, one of the directors of ‘Brave’, taught swordfighting to animators. Along with making Merida and the other characters move, the animators also had to work out what colors to use for the film, and they settled on vivid red hair – a warm color – for Merida and some more subdued hues for the nature areas (think about complimentary colors – red and green!). This makes the characters really stand out and adds a lot of variation in the animation. Throughout the production of the film, creativity was essential, as the animators and writers had to come up with solutions to problems and create the entire plotline, script, and scenes!

While ‘Brave’ experienced some difficulties in producing and directing the movie (Brenda Chapman was replaced as director by Mark Andrews), it is an amazing movie. The quality and realism of the animation made it difficult to look away, and the plot was both heartfelt and action-packed. If you haven’t seen it already, you should definitely give it a look!

The Heady Thrill Of Having Nothing To Do

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Is constant stimulation Hurting our creativity and the economy?
Scott Adams pays tribute to tedium.

Scott Adams      All fans of Scott Adams, Dilbert devotees, parents, and a friend/colleague of anyone continuously hooked to an electronic device will love this attack on our current state of information overload.

      Without giving away our ages, most of us can admit that our children are growing up with electronic gadgets we never dreamed possible. However, Adams is clear on the downside of these time fillers – of life without boredom- and their effect on the development of creativity. In his sarcastically amusing style, Adams reminds us that imagination is not the result of  being constantly entertained. Individuality is not developed by playing ‘Angry Birds’. Most critically, he recounts that he attributes his creative success to the somewhat excessive boredom he withstood during both his childhood and his corporate years. The genius behind Dilbert was simple tedium, not an iPad.

      Is America lacking innovation? Here’s a test : ask your children to unplug for a week and find out how much they know how to do on their own, or want to try. Hint – pick up some earplugs first, as you’ll hear more than a few screams along the way. The bonus is finding out what genuinely interests them, without devices giving them ideas.

Enjoy!

Newsweek Reports on the "Creativity Crisis" in America

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Affecting a generation of Americans, both children and adults,
“For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong – and how we can fix it.”

If you have school-age children this comes as no surprise. Children are spending more time in front of televisions and computers, and spending days in school being tested rather that taught. The long term effects are now being felt by a society that needs innovation more than ever to solve long-term problems.

What can you do? Read the article, learn, and reach out to the schools and children around you. Stay involved, and use books instead of television. Force your children outside (weather permitting) without electronics. Let them fail so that they understand how to creatively find solutions on their own. Encourage individuality.

Furnace recommends picking up a paintbrush and finding out where your imagination can take you! It’s a great way to spend a summer day. Just try to find a brush your own size…

Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom

Monday, October 12th, 2009

A recent 93-page report on online education, conducted by SRI International for the Department of Education, has a starchy academic title, but a most intriguing conclusion: “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

Click here for the full story…

Creative Education : Something to Inspire You!

Friday, April 10th, 2009

One of my most favorite things to read is the Edutopia magazine. They have excellent articles and insights from teachers all over the nation and across the curriculum. As a teacher at university, I am always inspired by my fellow teachers doing some excellent work for students before they hit my classrooms and thought I would share with you, two particularly amazing ideas and projects.


The first involves using art and music together for students — teachers using the 9 Muses of ancient Greek lore to introduce and examine various examples of their specialty through youtube! If you don’t remember the 9 sisters,
there was Calliope who ruled epic poetry, Clio who worked with history, Erato loved lyric poetry while her sister Euterpe was fascinated with music. Melpomene was the muse of tragedy while her light hearted sister Thalia, loved comedy. Then there was Polyhymnia who specialized in choral poetry and Terpsichore, the dancer. Finally, Urania governed astronomy.

In her article, Shari Wargo demonstrates how each of the muses discusses examples from youtube to help students understand the history of all such performances, reconnecting them to the ancestry of rap, hiphop, movies etc. A completely new and at the same time, ancient way of learning about the performative arts! Interestingly, the word muse, has the same root, as music. The sisters, with their dedication to the performative arts, founded learning in a preliterate world. They remind us that before we were homo sapiens ( knowing humans) we were homo narrans (story telling humans).

Likewise, while November is a long way off, it is National Novel Writing Month, and as a teacher who battles with students to write 5 pages, I am amazed at what kids who participate in this program accomplish in one month. A novel in a month! How many authors could do that kind of work? Yet, the kids do and they do it with amazing tenacity in a collective act. As one student reports, “it is not even about having your work read, it is about having written it.” In November 2008, more than 1.6 million words were written in a month! In the same year, nearly 120,000 adults from at least 45 countries became authors. You can too! The program is free for schools and has an excellent website which walks teachers through the program and how to prepare. Perhaps the greatest thing emerging from this program is the fundamental change in the relationship young kids have with books and writing. I have seniors who are afraid to write. I wish they had had this opportunity to unleash their power as a scribe!

From the Muses to the power of the scribe, if you are homeschooling your kids, you might be interested in the annual contests run by the Home School Legal Defense Association, for art, essays, poetry and photography. The poetry competition runs from May 1 through June 1, while the photography competition is coming up this summer and has a submission period beginning July 1 and ending August 1. Check out the website for a host of tips and resources for preparing your work for the competition. It’s a great event and every year, hundreds of home school students from around the country and even around the world raise thousands of dollars for the Home School Foundation’s Special Needs Children Fund.

“[The Muses] are all of one mind, their hearts are set upon song and their spirit is free from care. He is happy whom the Muses love. For though a man has sorrow and grief in his soul, yet when the servant of the Muses sings, at once he forgets his dark thoughts and remembers not his troubles. Such is the holy gift of the Muses to men.”
~Hesiod~

So, welcome the Muses into your life this Springtime and revel in their gifts as you celebrate the performative arts — arts for all and all for arts!

 

Time for an Altered State of Play/Work!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Recently, I watched a short video from Stuart Brown on the importance of play, not just for children, but also for adults. It made me start thinking about how we get so hung up on the tensions of work and play, and how they might benefit from becoming more integrated in our lives. As Stuart Brown attests, playing is good for us — good for our minds, our bodies, our spirits and our relationships and communities. So how can we become more play-full in our work in these difficult times?

It’s easy to get depressed as the economy continues its slide, times get tough around our families and communities, as well as our schools. Everyone is asked to more with less, and while we could all say that we have some ‘clutter’ in our lives that we need to rid ourselves of, there are also those who live close to the line where necessity is indeed, the mother of invention, as we all devise new ways of coming to grips with new realities.

As Edutopia reports, our schools, notoriously underfunded for the most part, face especially tough times as funds for materials continue to dwindle and more and more teachers are forced to buy supplies for our children out of their own meagre pockets. Teachers have always been more than willing to spend their own cash to help out families who can’t afford supplies but recently K-12 teachers have reported spending more than $1000 a year just for classroom supplies! In the face of this crisis, teachers are getting creative, playing with the nature of their work as in selling advertising space at the bottom of quizzes and exams, using organizations such as Freecycle where people give away lots of things they no longer need (but you might – you need to be quick though!), still others set up a listserv in their community posting requests for donations of supplies they need. Then there are those who organize school supply fundraisers and still others (like the Construction Management program at my own university) have organizations adopt classrooms! Not only is creativity alive in these endeavors but the playful perspective taken by these teachers is leading to some serious sustainability practice!

Teachers aren’t the only ones getting creative around education resources. In a recent report from the UK, more than 500 11-19 year olds completed and presented their Manifesto for a Creative Britain to the Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham. These young people reflected on what they feel they need in order to learn, think and act creatively. They imagined how schools might be different, what people in the creative industries could do to help and how they could develop the best environment possible for creative decisions and forming ideas. Students worked and talked together using online discussions, face to face conversations, group debates and video interviews to canvas their peers. Can you imagine what would happen if you engaged in such a project in your community?

These are indeed serious times for serious work and yet, simultaneously, what we may need is some serious play, by both adults and children to become more creative in our daily lives. I never cease to be amazed by the wonderful imagination of my children and the ways in which they question the world in which they live through their play. Perhaps Stuart Brown is onto something in releasing adults to play!

With thanks to laurel fan, dalydose and kelseyohhgee for their images!

Developing the creative spirit in all of us!

Art in 2009!

Monday, January 5th, 2009

At the end of our beloved 2008, we posted a series of 5 wishes for 2009 — we wanted arts funded, we wanted them in our schools, we wanted them for all (young and old, big and little) and we wanted to hold onto the arts of love and hope.

WOW – that’s a lot to accomplish in one year so we thought we would start with something fundamental – what is Art? Notice the capital letter. I ask this question of you based on my reflections over the last 48 hours — first, my 5 year old and I completed our questionnaire for his well child visit and he was asked to draw a person (I have never seen him do that – he usually does watercolors at school – highly impressionistic, kaleidoscopic whirls of color, with no body parts in sight!). Second, I read on the web that in my country of birth, a major art gallery had had one of its large concrete public walls graffiti-ed (is that a word?) on by the same artist twice in a month. When asked if they would be removing the artist’s poetry, the curator of the museum was disgusted — it was art, an expression of an artist’s love for someone else, how could he remove such an expression of human emotion? Finally, as a writer and as a mother, I was creating a blog, adding images, adding a trailer for a movie about something I was passionate about. Humming away, completely in flow (art as meditation), on my ‘piece of art’, I was completely floored when asked – so what purpose is that serving? Why are you doing that again? Hmmmm art. Art is something difficult to hold onto it seems.

And so I turned to my old friend, wise distributor of words, the dictionary. What is art? I asked it. Here is what it said, imagine a staccato machine-like voice —

” \ˈärt\. Function: noun. Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin art-, ars. Date: 13th century.

1: skill acquired by experience, study, or observation <the art of making friends>
2 a: a branch of learning: (1): one of the humanities (2)plural : liberal arts b: archaic : learning , scholarship
3: an occupation requiring knowledge or skill <the art of organ building>
4 a: the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects ; also : works so produced b (1): fine arts (2): one of the fine arts (3): a graphic art
5 a archaic : a skillful plan b: the quality or state of being artful
6: decorative or illustrative elements in printed matter.”

Righty-o then.

My dictionary friend then added, ” art implies a personal, unanalyzable creative power; skill stresses technical knowledge and proficiency (OK….); cunning suggests ingenuity and subtlety in devising, inventing, or executing (uh-oh….); artifice suggests technical skill especially in imitating things in nature (definitely not to be confused with art) whereas craft may imply expertness in workmanship.”

So which one was my son being asked to fulfill in that questionnaire?

Whatever it was, it was different to “a personal, unanalyzable creative power” as suggested by my dictionary friend. Hmmm. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? When we revisit our five wishes we now begin to see them as follows – we want this power funded, we want it sustained in our schools and education (after the word educare, to lead out), we want everyone to possess this power or have access to it and we believe that two of our strongest emotions — love and hope, are its wellsprings. Over the next few months, we will be working some more with this vision of art in this blog and speaking to some fine scholars of visual literacy and active agents in making this power of art available to all, especially encouraging it in our younger generations. We will also explore ways to recover this power in our everyday lives with those big/little/old/young people we love and we will see what kind of thinking, minds and characters emerge as a result.

We look forward to your company on this journey!

With thanks to Denis Collettejbrownell for, well you know, art…..

Let’s start 2009 with Art!

Great Minds….

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

The Information Age has brought us to an amazing place where we can be anywhere, anytime, with anyone.  Talking, recording, viewing anything. Heady stuff, but what kind of head? According to Daniel Pink, a whole lot of “left brain” got us here, but we need to shift towards “right brain”.

In his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future, he outlines a world where right-brain qualities rule.
-inventiveness
-empathy
-meaning

This new model applies to education, careers, life.
In Pink’s view, students and employees are operating within a dated model of needing to please authority figures. External validation mode. From early ages, we have all been conditioned to come up with correct answers, leading to reward. We blindly work hard for a gold star, high grades, a bigger desk, a corner office.  But there is little room for creativity within this model. In fact, in his experience, it can lead to burn out, lack of motivation, worse.

He had been a successful political speechwriter, but found that he somehow lacked motivation. And as he travels around the world conducting interviews and speaking engagements, he spreads the word of self fulfillment through doing what you enjoy. Sound familiar? In my earlier post, Sir Ken Robinson also outlines the many ways the human brain can learn and operate. There is no one right way of learning, teaching, thinking. The key, we seem to be hearing, is to find your own unique self. And embrace it. And as we teach our children, we should allow them to find it as well. Early and often.

In all phases of life, everyone should be encouraged to blossom and thrive. The responsibility lies with the teachers, the employers and of course, the self.

Pink urges us to find out what we enjoy doing. Forget external rewards. “Do what you do because you like it.”

Seek fun. Interesting. Challenging. Meaningful.

Clip and save this recipe for success.

Thanks to Daniel Pink for the image.

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